Horse Mad Whispers, by Kathy Helidoniotis

‘Mum. Mum!’
I sat bold upright in bed, the sound of my own voice echoing in my room. I was breathing hard. There was sweat on my forehead and my favourite nightie, the one that said I heart horses, stuck damply to my chest.
I’d had it again. The nightmare.
It was always the same but never any less frightening. The black horse would scream, his hard body would lash and twist and his silver shoes would flash like a spotlight in my face, blinding me. I’d feel the terror and then the pain and then I’d be ripped from sleep in a tangle of sheets and sticky hair.

Horse Mad Whispers opens at night, with Ashleigh Miller experiencing what has become a familiar nightmare. But even awake, she struggles to find a way through the accident that left her injured and a horse in danger of being put down. Worse still, she’s scared she may never be able to ride a horse again. Not just because of her injuries, but because she’s lost her nerve. All she ever wanted to do was go to Linley, where horseriding is part of the curriculum. Now she’s there and it’s not quite the dream she thought it would be. It’s hard being away from home and her friends, Becky and Pree, even though she’s making new friends at boarding school. There are bullies there, just like there were at home. She’s not ridden Honey for weeks and not everyone has forgiven her for the accident.

Ashleigh is now in Year 7 and is boarding at a school where horses board too. Horse skills are taught as part of the curriculum as well as being extracurricular. Ashleigh has to recover from her injuries, adjust to the new school and it’s particular challenges, deal with a hated and hating roommate and more. She’s discovered that getting what you most wanted, isn’t always quite the dream she imagined it would be. She also begins to see the world a little though the eyes of others, moving beyond the egocentricity of childhood. Learning more about horses in general, and her horse Honey in particular, helps her to also learn more about the people around her. She learns to look behind their words, to see where they’re coming from. There are plenty of horsey details for the horse-mad reader, but plenty also for those interested in realistic fiction for the transitioning-to-teen agegroup. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Horse Mad Whispers (Horse Mad S.)

Horse Mad Whispers , Kathy Helidoniotis
Angus & Robertson 2010
ISBN: 9780732289997

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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